Natural Highlights: Frankenstein Trees

The Bradford Pear Trees are in bloom, and every year there are more of them in the landscape.  This is not good news.  Fortunately, people everywhere are realizing that this tree is a problem - just do a quick Google search and see the numerous articles with titles similar to this one in Southern Living magazine: "Why Bradford Pears are the Worst Tree Ever."

The Bradford Pear is a cultivar of the Pear (Pyrus calleryana) native to Asia and introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental tree in 1964 by the USDA.  The cultivars were supposed to be sterile and harmless, but like so many environmental errors, there were uninteneded consequences.  The trees began to cross-pollinate with other exotic pear cultivars, eventually reverting back to the thorny original, the Callery Pear.  Thus the reference to Frankenstein:  "...Bradford pears are like the fictional monster “Frankenstein’’ because they were not expected to be a problem by those who cultivated and planted them. A 2018 story in The Washington Post said the Bradford pear shows how even the smartest 'scientific minds can go blind to what they might be creating, long after they have gone.’ " (Fretwell, 2019,

A quick list of reasons the Bradford Pears are terrible and should never be planted anywhere:  they are no good as landcape trees because their weak branch structure causes them to break apart easily; the flowers smell bad; once naturalized, the trees grow thorns up to 4" long which can shred tractor tires; those thorns also make them risky for volunteers to remove by hand;  they grow into impenetrable thickets which choke out other native trees; they spread very rapidly in the landscape.

Here's a quote from Durant Ashmore in the Greenville News:  "All those white blooming trees you see now are an environmental disaster happening right before your very eyes...Bradford pear is worse than kudzu, and the ill-conceived progeny of Bradford pear will be cursing our environment for decades or possibly centuries yet to come."  

So what do we do?  What we can, of course! Cut them down at home and on our land. Don't plant them anywhere. Hire professional invasive plant removal crews when we can.  Build a team of hardy volunteers willing to do battle with a thorny opponent, so that our parks and natural areas remain havens for native trees, plants, and wildlife.  

For more information on the Bradford Pear, see the links below:





Posted by Cathy Justis at 10:04 AM